June 14, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. Instead, grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forevermore. AMEN. (2 Peter 3.17-18)
We ought to be humbled by the call to live graced lives. Webster’s dictionary defines grace [in the Christian belief system] as “the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.” Peter’s call to believers to “grow in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” rises up out of his personal experience for the need of and the benefit of such grace. As Christ followers and mighty ones of God, shouldn’t we consider this the first definition of the word “grace.” When we say “grace” at the dinner table are we remembering the fullness of the blessing of the meal before us? When we are given a “grace” period in paying our mortgage, credit cards, a loan, etc., are we remembering the fullness of the blessing we have been given to mediate our response? When we act “gracefully,” are we remembering the One who made it possible for such quality action to be given to us? In other words, when it comes to “grace” are we thinking more about the human condition first or the God reality? What might Peter have meant when he directed Christ followers to “grow in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ”?
Perhaps he was speaking of forgiveness. The good news is that God’s grace extended through Jesus Christ is given by God and not earned by humans, individually or corporately. The withholding of the severest of all penalties accorded to our sinful nature and actions is not “death.” The severest penalty is the ultimate separation from the love of God. To put it in simpler terms, because we can be persistent and unrepentant sinners, we can earn an eternal “time out” in a corner called Hell. In Hell, I wonder if the residents ever beg for death to end their misery. It could have been avoided by confessing their sin, professing their Savior and practicing a life of grace. It is something that Lucifer couldn’t fathom. I have to believe that God called him into accountability while he was in Heaven for his wrong thinking and wrong action. God extended grace to Lucifer with the opportunity to stay in place. But, I guess Lucifer made a different decision. Generally, in scripture, the change of purpose and location is denoted by a change of name. When Lucifer was cast out of Heaven, his name changed to Satan- the Accuser. All the grace that accompanied him in Heaven as the Chief Worship Leader became tainted. He was still powerful, knowledgable, skillful and sadly mistaken. He turned blessings into burdens, love into hate, truth into lies and joy into bitterness. All those name changes for the “flip side of the coin.” Add to that the reality of “eternal life” and his misery becomes exponentially tormenting. The purifying fire of the Holy Spirit by God’s grace becomes a quenchless testimony of defeat to the unrepentant who will not surrender to the movement of God’s grace.
There is the alternative. We can grow in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We come from the position of “original sin.” We do not know in our conscious self what it means to live without sin. We do not know what it means to have all power, authority, knowledge and ability. We may long for it but we have no experience with it. We are captured in the wasteland of futility like an arid desert but with a hunger for deliverance. When David wrote (what is Psalm 42 to us) “as a deer pants for water so my soul longs for You, Yahweh Elohim.” He knew what it was like to be pursued by death and those who desired it for him. He had experienced it in the loss of a son born out of a sinful relationship which he could not restore. It was essentially by his own hand, rather his lustful heart, that his son born by Bathsheba perished. It was not a punishment. God does not work that way in restoring life and hope. God’s grace was extended to the child and he was gathered safely into Heaven. For God, such action may have been the most merciful act He could have rendered. We do not know what condition the child had or acquired. It doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. What does matter is the shock of despair which David and Bathsheba must have felt as they revisited the wrong choices they made which put them in that terrible position. If not for the grace of God, they would not have survived it themselves. But, they did. They received the unmerited favor of God and a blessing. That blessing was another child born to them whose name was Solomon. It was a blessing made especially for them not promised to anyone else. It was a blessing cultivated by their experience to pursue wisdom which then became a reality in one who sought to be wise himself. He wasn’t always wise. He didn’t always do what he should have done in the sight of the Lord. But, he was a good ruler and continued his father’s work as much as he continued his Father’s work. He grew in the grace of God.
So, we are given the opportunity and the urging to grow in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has made it possible for us to move from dark to light, death to life, despair to hope, sorrow to joy, chaos to peace and from sin which leads to eternal death to mercy which leads to eternal life. That is good news worth broadcasting. And our name changes. We are called Christians, ones of Christ, the family of God and joint heirs of the kingdom of righteousness. This world is not our home nor is this earth our final dwelling place. By the grace of God in Jesus Christ there will be a new heaven and a new earth and we will be welcomed into it and in it. If we will be wise!
OUR CALL TO PRAYER: Father God, maker of Heaven and earth, we bow before You and give thanks. You are seeking to make us wise in the ways of Your Kingdom through the knowledge and grace of Your Son, Jesus who is the Christ. We are seeking to be wise by embracing Your word and Your revelation in Him. Thank You for honoring His request to share His Spirit with us. As we believe more, we find the depth of grace and the fullness of knowledge to be exhilarating and motivating. We will take it with us today and each day into the world knowing it is the new environment by which and in which we live. It is the Kingdom of God on earth. We will seek to be in the world to do Your will and not be of the world doing our own. Come with us, Lord, we pray. AMEN.